Paralympic Powerlifting Replaces Bench Press at 36th National Veterans Wheelchair Games


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The National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) are once again evolving in an effort to open up more opportunities and boost competition for Veterans involved in adaptive lifting.

The 36th NVWG – taking place June 27-July 2, 2016, in Salt Lake City – will for the first time replace the traditional weightlifting event with powerlifting, consistent with the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) rules and standards for the sport.

“Periodically event standards change at the National and Paralympic competitions,” said Tom Brown, founder of the NVWG and consultant for Paralyzed Veterans of America. “As a rule, the NVWG changes to meet these standards in order to prepare our Veterans to continue the sport after the Games. We are excited to make the change from bench press to powerlift to enable our Veterans to continue on in the community, national, or Olympic level if they wish.”

Powerlifting differs from weightlifting in the level of lift. Whereas weightlifting’s standards require the safety stand holding the bar in a position one inch from the chest, requiring a lifter to press the bar up and back down on command, powerlifting requires the opposite: lifters start in the top position, take the bar from the rack with arms straight, lower the bar slowly to the chest on command, pause and lift back up before the command to rack the bar. Each powerlifter is allowed three attempts.

“This type of bench press is the current IPC-approved lift for the powerlifting event,” said Charles French, administration manager for the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. “This will help us mainstream the lift at the NVWG competition in hope that it will become a sanctioned event and help us identify potential Paralympic-level lifters.”

Most rules for powerlifting will remain the same as those for weightlifting, with the only exceptions being special accommodations for lifting positions and assistive devices used for athletes’ safety. A small amount of lenience will be permitted early on as the NVWG makes the transition, French said.

As the NVWG continues to strive as a pipeline of potential elite athletes, the move to Paralympic powerlifting was the natural course to ensure athletes who are interested in competing learn the rules and strategy and return to their communities committed to training in the sport. The hope is that many local programs will make the transition to powerlifting as well, French said.

“Powerlifting is a great example of where the VA and Paralyzed Veterans of America continues to drive the program,” said Dave Tostenrude, director of the NVWG. “We are committed to finding new challenges for the competitors while bridging the opportunities to the community involvement.”

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games are co-presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Learn more about Paralympic powerlifting (PDF format)

Brittany Ballenstedt is a military spouse, freelance journalist and photographer in Washington, D.C.

Local, National Organizers Collaborate on 2016 National Veterans Wheelchair Games

Basketball game at the 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games in DallasEnthusiasm is running high for the 2016 National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in Salt Lake City – with organizers on the local and national level coming together to make it another life-changing week for Veterans with disabilities.

The 36th annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) – co-presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Paralyzed Veterans of America – will feature the program’s signature 19 wheelchair sports and two exhibition sports for disabled Veterans June 27-July 2, 2016, in the scenic capital city of Utah.

“We are overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Salt Lake City community – the volunteers and sponsors who are coming out to support this event,” said David Tostenrude, Games director for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). “The enthusiasm from the 2002 Winter Olympics is spilling over to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, and that will make the program all the more special.”

Tostenrude along with national representatives from the VA and Paralyzed Veterans of America – including Games founder and Paralyzed Veterans of America Games director Tom Brown – gathered in Salt Lake City in late April to work with local organizers for the 2016 Games.

The VA Salt Lake City Health Care System and the Mountain States Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America are effectively collaborating to ensure the Games offer top-notch venues, hotels, transportation and hospitality, Tostenrude said.

Several businesses in and around Salt Lake City also are ramping up support for the Games, going so far as letting employees off for a day or half-day to volunteer at the Games, Brown said.

“The Utah Transit Authority is bending over backwards not only to get the veterans to and from the venues in a timely manner, but also providing support for volunteers to get to the convention center,” Brown said.

The theme of the 2016 Games – Strive, Live, Conquer – will be evident in events and presentations throughout the week. Triathlon, offered in partnership with USA Paratriathlon, and bobsledding, a new Paralympic winter sport, will be featured as this year’s exhibition sports.

The Games will kick off on June 27, 2016, with the annual Disabled Sports, Recreation and Fitness Expo, a tradeshow of more than 50 sports and recreation organizations and companies that provide health, wellness and accessibility products.

Veterans, families and volunteers participating in the 2016 NVWG are encouraged to book travel and hotel arrangements as soon as possible. Hotel information can be found at this link.

“So many are showing support above and beyond to ensure the success of the 2016 Games,” Brown said. “We can’t wait.”

Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and